All Personal Series: Nodding doesn't guarantee listening – so, what does?

YWiB Toronto has partnered with Roxana, Founder of bespoke training and coaching agency All Personal, for a blog series written by her. She helps individuals (re)discover and work-out their personal skills ‘muscles’, so they increase their self-awareness and improve their confidence, impact, relationships and, ultimately, quality of life. This series will provide insight into how you can do the same, and ideally walk away with tips, tricks, and advice that you can apply to your own life and career. 

She trains and coaches executives, business owners and professionals on practical techniques that they can easily use and apply in any area of their life, with a strong focus on communication (verbal and non-verbal), change, feedback, presenting & speaking, team & self management, teamwork, leadership.

Roxana is a TEDx speaker, a certified coach and trainer, and a Learning & Development professional. She holds a diploma in Learning & Development and a certificate in Human Resources from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development in the UK, as well as a Master of Arts in Knowledge, Information and Project Management from the University of Bucharest, Romania.

‘No, that’s not what I meant, or ‘You’re not listening to me’, or ‘I’ve just told you that’. Familiar? 

Why does this happen, when all we did was listen? We thought we were listening, because we were nodding our head over and over again, humming as well, and even maintaining eye contact.

So why is it then that, at some point in the conversation, we get this feedback that we weren’t, in fact, listening. What is listening and what makes it so difficult?

First off, we tend to treat listening as this passive thing we do (or don’t have to do?) when the other is talking. We look at it as ‘let them talk, while I can think about my ‘groceries shopping list’’. 

The brain is busy thinking about the next actions we need to take, even when we don’t want it to. This is how, especially when we think we don’t have to do anything, we’re always busy thinking about something.

One of the most difficult things to achieve is to clear our minds, not think about anything, and those of you who meditate or ever tried to, perfectly know this feeling. Because there’s always a buzz, a hum, a thought, a fraction of an action hidden right there, in a corner of our mind.

That’s how, instead of listening to what the other is saying, we’re busy trying to decipher our own thoughts all the while.

Second, we prefer to tell our story rather than listen to someone else’s. Why? Because when I’m telling my story I’m more involved, I recreate the events, which makes me also re-experience some of the feelings, which, in turn, makes me so involved in the story.

When another person tells us their story, it’s more difficult to get involved, we’re strangers to that story and it takes time to get a grip of what it is about. And unless the story teller makes it engaging (but that’s another story), we find ourselves thinking ‘shopping lists’ all over again.

The ‘shopping list’ is our metaphor for everything else we’re thinking about: what am I going to respond to what they’ve just said now (which is already what they just said a while ago, because I don’t know what they’re saying now anymore, as I’m thinking about what I am going to say); piles of work, night out with friends, things I need to start doing right after reading this article, you get the picture.

Third, we’re human. We can only focus for a little while, because we cannot help but pay attention to everything that’s going on around us. Yes, focus is the opposite of attention. Focus requires a lot of effort and us pushing every distraction aside. Focus happens especially when we’re in flow, ‘in the zone’, because that’s when we’re engaged, involved, motivated.

Focus means I zoom in to you while you’re speaking, without paying attention to who comes in the room, to what happens in my mind, to the building shaking because there’s an earthquake. But, as I said, we can only focus for a while, and under these specific circumstances of involvement and motivation.

And we already decided, we love our own stories more than other people’s stories. Which is why they don’t keep us motivated and engaged enough for us to get into that state of focus. So what can we do? It’s something we already do, just not all the time and maybe without being aware of it. Think about someone you care about, telling you they got the job they wanted.

First of all, hear their voice and how they say it. They are usually enthusiastic, and enthusiasm is catching. When we respond, we do it without thinking about our shopping list. When we hear ‘hey, I got that job’ we naturally go ‘wow, I’m so happy for you’.

We match their state of mind, because we care. Caring makes us focus on what they are saying. When I care about your story, I am there, with you, in your story. I bring my story there, because I can relate to yours now. And that’s how we can build a combined story – the story of ‘how you got that job and how we celebrated together’.

Because when I care, I can focus, and that’s what makes me capable to understand: what you’re saying and also a bit of how you’re feeling.

So now that I’m focused, I am interested, and the next thing I know is I’m asking you for more details: what will you be doing, when do you start, do they train you, how much do they pay you (ok, maybe not that, we'll leave that for the shopping list).

It’s a natural reaction for us, to ask questions when we listen. I mean, when we truly listen. Listening is a verb - it’s an action. It’s not that I don’t have to do anything and ‘just listen’. On the contrary, there’s a lot of things I do that tell you I’m listening.

Think about it: when we care and focus and truly listen, what do we do, apart from nodding and humming: we ask questions, we go back to make sure we didn’t misunderstand, we ask for clarifications, we summarize, we investigate further, we ask for the next steps.

It goes all the way back when, as children, someone was reading a story to us and, because we were captivated by it, we wanted to know more, hear more, see more. Or maybe more recently when, at some point in our lives, we asked the question: ‘so let me get this straight, are you dumping me?’. That’s one piece of active listening! And all because I cared.

The ‘recipe’ I am proposing is: start with the heart and zoom in on the mind (you add your own ingredients, in the quantities that work for you).

When I care, I will instantly focus, and when I focus, I will be able to hear what you’re saying and actually understand you. I will nod and hum, and I will also ask questions, summarise, clarify, agree next steps, maybe take notes and make sure you get them, too.

Once I listen to understand, I build the foundation for a long-term relationship.

So, ‘shopping lists’ aside, we all crave to be:

  • heard
  • understood
  • valued (or, even better, loved).

And then, once we’ve truly listened, we get a ‘that’s exactly what I meant’, or ‘thanks for listening to me’, or ‘nobody else asked me that, thank you for checking’.

Because when somebody listens to me and understands me, I feel I matter. Don’t you?

If you’re interested in this topic, you may also want to watch and read:


How to Rock a Networking Event

Untitled design (2).jpg

Coming to one of our networking nights this summer? Don’t know how to even start to make connections? Fear not, here are some tips to make the most of your networking opportunities.

Make a good impression

When you’re in a networking event, you need to be the best version of yourself. Doing so helps those who meet you to remember you and makes it easier for them to be your advocate or champion. Here are a couple of ways to bring out your best self.

  • Be helpful. Ask what they’re looking to achieve with the networking event and if applicable, offer to make an introduction or share knowledge you have about the topic.

  • Be yourself and be honest. People can often tell when you’re trying to fib so don’t invite distrust by pretending to be someone you are not.

  • Be warm and open. This doesn’t mean to hug everybody; it means listening intentionally (to understand, not to practice what you’ll say next), smiling, and approaching every interaction with goodwill.

  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Ask questions when you don’t know or understand something, don't just nod along while standing on the sidelines. If you appreciate what someone said, say so! If you tell someone you’ll email them, do so!

  • Be clear, specific and straightforward. When you ask open questions with details, you can help keep the conversation going and avoid awkward short answers. For example, don’t ask, ‘how’s it going?’ (answer: it’s going); ask, ‘what was the best thing you read this week?’

  • Leave Debbie Downer at the door. Stay away from complaining, negativity, gossip, judgment, exaggeration, and blaming. It's not about being fake-happy, but rather about being relaxed and easy to talk to.

How do you know who and how to approach?

In our networking events we often sit at a table, and our team takes care of the ice breakers and awkward introductions. If you find yourself in another networking event unaided, and have no idea how to ‘enter’ a conversation, use the 1-2-3 principle. That is, approach those by themselves first, then groups of two and finally groups of three. Here’s how:

  • Look first for people standing by themselves. Often, these ‘groups of one’ are the most welcoming since they’re often shy, so go ahead and approach them. Use an ice breaker, and introduce yourself.

  • When approaching groups of two people, approach first groups who are standing in a V formation. Their bodies are slightly open towards opposite sides, which usually means that they’re open to someone else joining their conversation. Just slide in the middle of the V, make eye contact with both parties, smile, and introduce yourself.

  • If you find a group of two people and their bodies are facing each other straight on, that usually means they’re engaged in a semi-private conversation. Fear not, you can also approach them. Use the ‘may I cut in’ trick seen in movies: approach one of them from the side, gently tap them in the arm and ask for permission to join in. A simple ‘do you mind if I join your conversation?’ will suffice. Nine times out of ten, they’ll say yes and introduce you to the other party or parties. If they say no, it’s very likely that they’re discussing a private issue and in that case, just move on to the next group.

  • When approaching groups of three or more, find an open space and use the same ‘may I cut in approach,’ slide in, make eye contact with everyone in the group and join the conversation.

So now that you’re in the group, what do you do next?

You want people to remember who you are. Standing next to someone or only nodding won’t get you noticed. Although listening in is okay, but do your best to participate.

  • If you’re joining a group of one, use an icebreaker to start the conversation. You can compliment a piece of their outfit (or their glasses, phone, etc.), and ask about more about it. Other icebreakers are easy questions such as ‘What attracted you to this event?’ or ‘Have you ever been to an event like this?.’ If you’re really shy, you can admit to that since the other person may be shy also. For example, saying ‘Events like these are so intimidating to me. Are they easy for you?’

  • If you’re joining a conversation of two people or more,  just ask ‘What are we talking about?’ and someone will fill you in. Ask simple follow up questions such as ‘That’s interesting, why is that?’ or ‘I’ve never heard about that’ or ‘Can you elaborate?’ to help the conversation going.

Introducing yourself

The key to introducing yourself is to be brief and give them just enough bits of information to get them to ask more. Also, people like to interact with humans, not robots, so make sure your intro reflects your fun, sassy and clever personality. Here’s a simple fill-in-the-blank script and some samples.

  • My name’s Rihanna. I’m a veteran singer in the entertainment industry. I excel at making my listeners feel like I’m the only girl in the world. In my free time, I enjoy making umbrellas and asking for my money back. My best friends would describe me as obsessed with diamonds. I’m here to get more fans and weed out any rude boys.

  • My name’s Sarah. I’m a digital marketer in the insurance industry. I excel at helping companies convert passive audiences into customers. In my free time, I enjoy live music and spending time with my dog. My friends describe me as the best board game partner ever. Now I am looking for a digital coordinator role with a company that wants to supercharge their promotional efforts.

  • My name’s Lane. I’m a sales rep in the tech industry. I recently helped my division exceed their sales forecast by 25%. In my free time, I enjoy watching documentaries and biking. My clients describe me as dependable and hardworking. My friends describe me as the best wing-woman in downtown Toronto. I’m here to meet new people and make friends.

Now that you have given enough information to pique their curiosity, pause, look them in the eye and wait. They will ask you questions or tell you something about themselves.

You have listened, talked, and bonded. Now what?

Your goal in a networking event is to make and receive at least one introduction or follow-up meeting from one of your fellow attendees. Yes, it’s about giving, before taking. To do that, you need to make meaningful connections.

Stay tuned for more tips in upcoming blog posts and newsletters. We’ll be covering topics such as how to ask for an informational interview, how to follow up and how to follow through. Also, follow us in Twitter and LinkedIn for more info and resources about rocking the networking game.  

Written by Sandra Riano

Changing the face of Non-Profits: A look at Crossbow Miles Canada


One of the greatest aspects of being a part of the YWiB team is meeting amazing women, thriving in their careers. However, it isn’t often that I have the opportunity to meet young girls, especially ones as driven and ambitious as Kiran Kumar. Kiran is a fifteen year old high school student, making waves for the future of women and non-profit organizations. While still in high school, Kiran has already become the founder and CEO of Crossbow Miles Canada, a non-profit organization focused on improving the health and well-being of women and girls in India through workshops on digital & financial literacy, health, hygiene and gender sensitization. She and her team have already thrown fundraising events, held an art wall and are now taking on their biggest project yet: Women’s One World Walk, on June 1st. I recently sat down with Kiran to discuss what she sees for the future of Crossbow Miles Canada, and the future of women in business.

How did you get involved in Crossbow Miles and volunteering for the organization?

It’s actually really interesting because I’m going begin by confessing that it all started with building a resume. It sounds harsh because nobody says it out loud, but it’s always there. I want to go to Harvard and I remember reading this article saying Harvard isn’t looking for well-rounded students and I was the definition of a well-rounded student.  They’re looking for someone who’s really good in one thing, and has mastered that one thing, because it shows that there is a chance that they will be successful in that field. I used to think ‘oh my goodness I’m so screwed’ because I was a jack of all trades, not a master of one. Later, I started to observe that a lot of students were doing this thing where they would work with a movement, go to a third world country, put some bricks on a wall and put it in their resume. So, it all started with ‘okay, why not’. I so happened to get in contact with Crossbow; I’m so happy they were the ones I reached out to. I started to fundraise by selling samosas in my high school foyer; they were 80 cents and we sold them for $2. We made quite a lot of money, but at the same time I started to attend events in Toronto on personal branding. It was a whole new world for me because this was the first time I was learning outside of the classroom. It was genuine, raw and what I like to call uncensored learning.

I had started to do that simultaneously, which was to develop my character, develop my personality and sort of develop a passion for this. While that was happening in the background, I started realizing what a great movement Crossbow really is. Not only because of the cause; I was always passionate about empowering women in that part of the world. I always had that on my mind, it just didn’t really hit me what was being held back from women until I started meeting empowering women myself at these networking events. I used to go up to a woman and say ‘I’m sorry, I just adore you so much’ because I was so empowered. You actually feel that inspiration and that ‘oh my goodness I love you so much’, that awe inspiring moment when you see a woman who has really done something with her life. It was just depressing for me to see the situation that a lot of women with this potential not getting the education they need.

That's when I started to really implement that knowledge I was getting from these events into the movement. I started to form a committee, I filed for incorporation single-handedly, I read all the fine print. I started to introduce myself by saying ‘Hi, my name is Kiran Kumar and I work with Crossbow Canada’, and eventually they made me the Canadian head. That’s when I started to recruit committee members in and other high school students like me. I started to individually go with them to Toronto and inspire them like I was inspired, and they really started to feel the energy that I felt myself.

We held a few fundraisers, had an art wall and eventually we held our first small event.  That’s really when it got kick-started, we had our social media pages up and now on June 1st  we’re holding our big event WOWW – Women’s One World Walk. It was supposed to be our big finish. But now, just a week ago we got a message saying ‘you’ve been incorporated, start forming your board of directors’. So now this end event has sort of become a launch. We are planning to expand and not run like a non-profit but run like a business with different departments. High school students have so many talents which we can provide as services. We have different departments, different categories to expand and hopefully in the end people won’t think of us as someone you give donations to, but they’ll get something back from it because we have a responsibility to women here too. So hopefully our service and our products will help women here and the funds will help women over there. That’s really our, my vision for the movement, I haven’t really told the committee just yet. It all starts at this event, that’s when everyone is going to be there, we’re going have our celebration, announce our incorporation and the women that are going to be speaking are just extraordinary. Their journey and their triumphs are just really moving. I’m looking forward to having that event and of course the celebration after is going to be fun.

Who are the women that inspire you personally?

Huda Alvi, she is an entrepreneur and an influencer. I connected to her through LinkedIn She is just extraordinary, when I saw her Instagram, I discovered the meaning of empowerment. I don’t even know what it was specifically, because I’ve seen woman with confidence before. But when I saw her profile picture I got a rush of adrenaline, I couldn’t sit still. She actually responded to my email when I contacted her, and we started to connect! She will be my personal mentor in our event WOWW. I’ve never been happier to have met a woman in my life! She’s really transformed my way of thinking.

The second would be my mother, I was always teasing people saying ‘my mother” on television, but now I realize she’s just extraordinary in the sense that she’s so supportive. When my health went down the drain for 2-3 weeks in December I was just miserable. I was horrible to be around. She was always there, and being a business woman, that’s a difficult thing to do. I’m telling anyone that’s reading this: be nice to your mom. You must be nice to your mother and whenever you face success you’ll realize that the one person you’ll want to thank is your mom.

Where do you see Crossbow Canada in the future?

I see it as a business. I know business can be seen as a bad word especially in Canada because it’s all about profit. Whenever I say to someone I’m running a business when I’m running this non-profit they always say ‘well you’re not making any profit’ and I tell them I am making a profit, it’s just going somewhere else. I want it to be like an exchange. I like the idea of providing something to someone; it’s such a good feeling. I was actually inspired by Disney; let’s take a few steps back. They have Disney World, they have Disney stores, not to mention their monopoly in the film industry. They’re everywhere. That’s what I want for Crossbow. I want us to be everywhere, because they are experts in every category and if we can expand and get different services in different areas with different products, I think that would be a great way to get our name out there and see what works, see what doesn’t.

How do you see women in business changing in the future?

Oh, boys should watch out! When I see women, when I see the people in my classroom, when I see the women walking down the halls of my school there are so many women who I can definitely say are going to make it big. I know a lot of people go with: ‘if you have good grades then you’ll definitely be successful’ but when it comes to business, I think because the school system is so structured, look out for those people who maybe don’t try that hard in academics. Maybe they don’t join extracurriculars, but the people who are super social, because socializing is work! It’s fun for some, not fun for others. Academics is fun for some and not fun for others.  Those women aren’t thinking about their future right now, because the system isn’t for them, it wasn’t made for them. In a few years, if they start a business, they’ll be unstoppable; I think that's something to really look out for. Those women with an aptitude for business, they will definitely make it somewhere so you’ll see a large amount of women in business.

For more on the organization and to see ways you can help visit: Crossbow Miles

For information and tickets to Women’s One World Walk visit:

Spotlight: Brandesha Sinclair from The Working Millennial

Earlier this year I sat down with Cassondra Kyra from The Working Millennial to discuss navigating through finances as a young woman and her journey to become financially literate. In a follow-up to that interview I meet with Brandesha Sinclair, the creator of The Working Millennial to discuss why millennials need an employment website catered to them, how she sees the job market changing in the future and the challenges faced during the job search. She is a Job Coach, Facilitator and Content Creator.

On creating The Working Millennial

Why did you decide to make an employment focused website?

I’ve always had the idea in my head, but I never really saw myself taking the action to do it. One day I was browsing and Wix was having a promotion so something in my gut told me to just go for it. I always had the idea and notes for it, but I wasn’t putting in the effort to pursue it. As of Fall 2017, has been up, and right now I’m just learning and working on implementing the other ideas I have for the website.

...And what other ideas do you have for the website?

So with what I do, my passions lie with career development and media. I want to bring those together on to one platform where I can provide information to millennials. I think millennials are different, we are multidimensional, so I want to provide information that is relevant but also has personality and is informative. For the website I want to add things such as a job board for jobs available in the GTA, a spotlight for millennials making big moves in their careers or startup companies, to give them some recognition and help build that network for young professionals in Toronto. I will also be creating more visual content such as videos just to make the site more engaging.

Why do you think millennials need a website catered specifically to them?

In terms of the type of information we are offering, employment and financial literacy, there is definitely a gap in comparison to the older generation, especially in terms of finance. For example, the idea of buying a house is almost a myth for us, so just having those conversations. I find in terms of employment and career development, in speaking with my circle of friends and people I’ve gone to school with, it’s something that everyone seems to have a challenge with. Having those conversations where it’s not an older person who is more distant from the workforce and might not know what the experience is like. Whereas I’ve experienced it, and it’s something where we are able to have that conversation and exchange those tips and tricks so that all of us can succeed. We are the future, we are very present in the market right now and I think it’s very important for us to have those connections and to help each other grow in society.  And to continue that to the next generation, generation z, to help them with that transition as well.   

Do you see the working millennial as eventually being your full-time job?

What I envision for myself, I don’t see myself sitting at the desk I am right now. I do want to have something for myself and what I have going, I think there is so much potential for it. I’m learning as I go, and I just want to see it flourish and have something of my own, I don't want your typical 9 to 5. Although you see a lot of people saying they want to be an entrepreneur, they don’t really know what being an entrepreneur entails. Right now, I’m just going with the flow but eventually I would want that to be my full time thing.


On millennials in the workforce

What do you think is missing in our generation when it comes to becoming an entrepreneur?

Everyone has the idea; especially with social media and seeing all these images it's very glamorized. I can even say myself that I’m a victim to it. You see everyone living this glamorous life, but you don’t ever see what’s behind it. You don’t see that people are up until 3am answering emails or making sure shipments get to where they need to be. It’s different because you don’t know where your next dollar is going to come from and a lot of people don’t realize that. You need to have a foundation started because a lot of people just jump into something, which, I understand taking those risks for your dreams, but at the same time you need to be strategic. I would suggest transitioning into it, start it out as your side hustle and see if it’s something you can see yourself doing because some people don’t have that work ethic. I think a lot of millennials are fascinated by the idea of it but not willing to create a plan.

How do you see the workplace changing for millennials in the future?

I definitely see a shift in the demographics, different barriers being broken. So, in my experience I’ve only had one person in power that was a woman of colour. I definitely see that changing with race(s), gender, etc. In terms of the barriers I see today with gender, there’s so many women that are just so hard working yet receiving small salaries, I definitely see that changing. Diversity in terms of race, and ways of becoming more accommodating of individuals identifying with disabilities. We are much more open minded and willing to listen to what the concerns are and find innovative ways of incorporating those things and bridging those gaps.

What changes do you currently see happening with millennials entering the workforce?

Definitely with millennials I’m seeing a broader spectrum of what people are going for, especially with technology. It’s not just gender specific, anyone can do it. Even if you were to go a more traditional route like education or healthcare, technology is heavily invested in that. But with the people I cross paths with, there is definitely a more traditional lens, so with social work, nursing, ECE, there’s still a lot of women. But with immigrants and international students there is definitely a difference, you see more women in math, science and technology. It seems to be more normalized with women. In terms of the educational path there seems to be a shift but there is still a traditional route.


On the challenges of employment/unemployment

What is some advice you would give to someone that is currently unemployed?

You have to be super driven, even if you go to access career services or an employment coach; they aren’t going to hold your hand. The only person standing between you and your career opportunity is you, you have to make sure you're doing your part. Having someone create your resume for you can only get you so far. I can do your resume but if you don’t take the time to go through your career history and guide someone through your experiences, it's inconsistent. For example, when you’re in an interview and you don’t know what you're talking about. Also, be clear about what you want, even if you are at an indecisive phase in your career; have somewhat of an idea on what you are willing to explore. Having a focus helps guide your job search because you'll know where to look, you’ll know what these employers are looking for and you’ll be able to provide more quality information rather than have a generic resume applying for all these positions and being overlooked because it’s not as concrete as someone else who has the experience. And don’t be discouraged!

Since Toronto is a very diverse city with people coming from other countries, what do you see in terms of employment/unemployment for immigrants?

In a way for a lot of them coming to a new country is a lot. You don’t know how to really navigate the system and with the whole credential system you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it is equivalent, sometimes it is not. But the market is so competitive over here as it is, and you might not know who the top competitors are, or what the norms are, and you don’t have connections because with employment networking is a really big thing. Sometimes they are coming by themselves and they just get lost in the sauce.

Once again there are two types of mindsets you go, some who think they are going to get the top position because this is Canada and the land of opportunity, and you have others that would be happy with a cashier job even if they’ve had years of experience in a top-level position. Working in employment I see the realities of it and sometimes they do have to take more of a survival job. Not knowing the market, not having connections, sometimes that is used as a barrier, having your credentials from somewhere. But at the same time some individuals just don’t know how to market themselves and that’s the same for people born and raised here. You can have that credential but if you don’t know how to market those things you’re kind of stuck. You are your brand.  

Do you find that people are willing to take any job that comes to them rather than waiting it out for what they actually want to do?

That’s an interesting question because you get both ends of the spectrum. You get people that will take whatever comes to them and have kind of given up hope or just aren’t patient. In which case you’ll see people take on survival jobs until they get the opportunity they are looking for which is understandable and I kind of recommended at this time with living expenses. But don’t get comfortable in that survival job, keep looking for what you want. But you also get people that feel entitled and they’re so focused on getting a specific role, but they have some serious gaps. I’ve had some people that are super picky, and have so many great opportunities that just go out the window. So, you have those that are resistant, and those that are flexible but lose focus.

And what kind of advice would you give to each type of person?

For both individuals keep an open mind, learn what you can as you go. Definitely be determined but try not to be idle or resistant. You have to be fluid in this day and age, there are always transferable skills you can get whether it’s a survival job or not. Just learn what you can and make the most out of it.    


Written by: Ashleigh H.

Introducing: YWiB Toronto President, Sandra Riano

Sandra, our new Toronto Chapter President, has been with Young Women in Business since March of this year. An exceptional marketer and leader, she has extensive experience leading the successful development of marketing and business strategies for medium-sized organizations and Fortune 500 companies. A visionary and master collaborator, she specializes in Strategic Planning, Branding and Communications. Having recently completed her Master of Arts, Professional Communications program, at Royal Roads University, she brings to YWiB her fresh perspective, big picture thinking, and knowledge of the real-world truths faced by young women. Personally, she is dog-obsessed, but also an equal opportunity hugger of all species. On top of that, she loves food, comedy, travelling, dancing, meeting new people, and forgetting their names the second after she meets them (Yes, she’s working on that!).

Sandra Riano headshot

Describe what you're working on and why it's important to you?

I’m working on taking the right steps to advance my career. Two years ago I took a break from the workforce to work on my Masters of Professional Communication. I wanted to add a robust educational foundation to my already extensive experience in the marketing strategy field, and gained so much more. A challenging and invigorating experience, I expanded my theoretical and work-related skills, while gaining insights into the complexity of human communications and the nuances that impact organizations, society, and personal relationships.

Afterwards, I decided to continue to look deeper, and started by enrolling in a career advancement program run by working with an amazing leadership coach. I was able to uncover what fulfills me career-wise, and the values that underscore how I want to lead my personal and professional life. I discovered that I thrive most when leading teams, and helping organizations and their staff realize their potential. Most of all, I learned that female empowerment, inclusion and diversity are core to my identity, and instrumental to the organizations I want to work with moving forward.

How does your role empower you?

My role is driven by long term impact and short term results, so being able to immerse myself into a project, program, or organization to set its strategic direction is very empowering. Leading teams to be the best they can be and helping achieve career and personal heights they thought unreachable, fills me with joy and motivates me everyday. Understanding the marketplace, societal forces, trends, stakeholders and their motivations, the internal workings of each department, relationships, etc., to craft the right approach and being able to adjust and tweak as conditions change -- and they always do! -- is vital to my success. In fact, I see myself as a master Lego builder. While most people build what’s shown on the box and then move on to the next set, I see beyond. I take what could be generic, and turn it into masterpieces that are robust, awe-inspiring, and withstand the test of time. Isn’t that better?

What advice do you have for other young women looking to get involved in your field of work?

Take some time upfront in discovering what you’re passionate about. Forget about fads, what’s cool to your peers, or trying to emulate someone else’s path. Cultivate a curious mindset and take a ‘try it all’ approach to find your own path.

Knowledge is everything so take classes about the topics and skills you’re interested about - if they bore you to tears, move one! You can do this inexpensively: scour the web for webinars, use your Library card to access free courses in, enroll in open education classes at, or volunteer with organizations such as YWiB (join us!) which let you sharpen your skills and gain new ones.

If you want to explore the marketing field, take classes at the Canadian Marketing Association ( or the American Marketing Association ( If you’re looking for knowledge about a specific industry, search online for their trade magazines which are often free to access. There you’ll find information to help you understand the industry lingo, and more importantly, keep up to date on industry trends. Also, get as many coffee chats with marketing people in different industries. Doing so will help you gain a realistic perspective of their workdays, corporate culture and small nuances in each industry. The bonus? Doing so will help you build your network!

Who is your biggest role model, why?

This is always a hard question for me because I believe everyone has something worth learning from. For example: my mom and my sisters who have taught me to be strong, resilient, and not to take myself too seriously. My husband, from whom I’ve learned the value of meaningful connections and stillness. My female friends have taught me the value of thoughtful conversations and shared experiences. My male friends from whom I’ve learned to appreciate easy laughs and how to unwind. Their combined teachings and continued support propels me to continue to work to become a better human being. The process is never over -- don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise! -- and I’m immensely happy to have them in my life.

What book do you recommend every young professional should read?

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury. It covers something that most people struggle with: win-win negotiations. The books covers the negative connotations associated with negotiation, its roots, how to turn them into tools for understanding rather than domination. It explains the concept of ‘principled negotiation,’ aka how to navigate conflict at work, home, etc., without getting lost in the minutiae or losing sight of who we are as people. It’s practical, insightful and uncomplicated. The latest editions have even more insights so I’d recommend to read those. The book has helped me deal with tough situations, fine tune my negotiation style, has broadened my understanding of the topic as a whole, all this while opening my eyes to how we all need to get better at it - go read it!

If you could go back to your 16 year old self, what would you say?

You are a work in progress and always will be, because the self-discovery journey never ends and that is okay! Life would lose its luster otherwise.

Why do you think groups like YWiB are important?

Organizations like YWiB are important because they give access to women to the tools and strategies to help them realize their potential, in a supportive and caring community of like-minded peers. What I particularly enjoy about YWiB is how it recognizes that we are complex and multilayered beings, and works to provide content that covers all facets, in meaningful and thoughtful ways.

What can our readers do to help you?

I love meeting new people from all walks of life so drop me a line and we’ll chat. I’m currently seeking my next opportunity. If you, your company or the company you work for is seeking to hire a masterful marketer and strategist, connect with me at or

You can follow me at my Instagram at @sandraandmaple. Fair warning though, it’s mostly pictures of dogs and food, heh.


Beauty and the Boss Babes

What I love about being part of YWiB is the positive support. No matter what you want to accomplish, learn or focus on; women are fully supporting women. Girl Power if you will.

Speaking of Girl Power, I want to share two awesome Boss Babes in the Beauty Industry: Laura and Connie of NIU BODY.  NIU BODY is a 100% natural, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare company based in Toronto. They offer affordable and effective skincare without the fancy fluff. Since launching in March of 2017, the line consists of makeup remover oils, toning mists, serums, clay face masks, and lip polishes. An exciting new product is also coming soon, which we can’t wait to check out!

IMG_1598 (1).jpg

The story behind NIU BODY started in 2016. Laura had this amazing idea for a natural, coconut oil-based makeup remover wipe but couldn’t find one on the market. She was looking for someone to run the idea by, and a mutual friend recommended she chat with Connie because she was the ideal consumer (Connie is into wellness, skincare, and all things natural). The girls had dinner which turned into a 3-hour business meeting. By the end of the night, they agreed to partner and start NIU BODY.

If you are interested in trying some of NIU BODY’s products, Glow Luminizing Facial Serum is their best seller. It contains organic jojoba oil (to minimize the appearance of pores), organic camellia seed oil (packed with antioxidants and Omegas), organic bergamot essential oil (a citrusy scent that relieves stress), and Vitamin E. It’s extremely light weight, moisturizing, and absorbs quickly, leaving your skin radiant and bright. Pro Tip that Connie and Laura learned from one of their customers is to use their serums before applying makeup, to give your skin a dewy, youthful look! Connie’s fav product is the Awake Rose Toning Mist. It’s perfect for travel, post-workout, or just as a mid-day refresher. She’s a sucker for floral scents –  and bonus points for reducing skin pigmentation.

Since we are on the topic of  beauty, I couldn’t help but ask Connie for some skin care tips. Connie says it’s important to develop a skincare routine that works for you. It’s great reading from different magazines and blogs on what products work for different celebrities or influencers, but at the end of the day, you know what works best for your skin.  She also suggests sticking to something simple and preferably natural that you know you will be able to accomplish (i.e. never go to bed with makeup, always wear sunscreen) and you’ll see the results.

Now, for those aspiring Girl Bosses out there this is for you. If you are looking to start your own business, Connie’s advice to you is to have confidence. She thinks a lot of women don’t give themselves enough credit (she’s guilty as charged!) and set smaller goals as a result. When she first started NIU BODY, her original target was just to sell one product to someone who wasn’t a friend. Looking back, it seemed like a ridiculously small goal that Laura and Connie quickly surpassed. Connie also says to set your bar high, vocalize your dreams, and smash those goals!

Connie’s most rewarding part of having a business is hearing such positive feedback from NIU BODY customers. She and Laura were at a market in the fall, and a girl came up to them to show how her skin had changed after using NIU BODY for a few months. She explained how it had boosted her confidence and she needed to share her positive results. Laura and Connie received a message from a customer in BC, praising NIU BODY’s clean products and revealing that before NIU BODY she had such a difficult time finding affordable but also good quality, natural skincare products. Connie says “it sounds cheesy, but moments like this are what keep us so motivated!”

After learning about NIU BODY from Connie and exploring NIU BODY’s natural and affordable products online, I was tempted to try a couple of products myself. With an education and background in beauty, I had more than one reason to add a few items to my cart and proceed to checkout!

The excitement of having a package arrive gives me all kinds of feels; like a kid ready to open their gifts on Christmas morning, which I know some of you can relate to. When I opened the package I loved the message card from Laura and Connie themselves hoping I’ll enjoy their products, and a brief background on what NIU BODY has to offer. I was even more excited to try my new skin care products that evening.


Product number one was the Detox Green Clay Mask. The mask contains kaolin and French green clay and green tea extract that draws out impurities and oil and leaves your skin detoxified and purified. What’s cool about this product is it’s in a powder form. All you have to do is mix a few drops of water to get that mask like consistency and voila, you have yourself a facial mask. I loved how it was easy to apply and it helped with my congested skin.

Calm Lavender Toning Mist was product number two. I have a soft spot for lavender scented products and my bucket list consists of a walk in a lavender field, so naturally this product was a must try. The toning mist has a blend of lavender floral water, aloe vera and witch hazel. When I tried it for the first time, it was love at first smell; I felt like I was walking in lavender fields already! Both products are now a staple in my skincare routine. I always appreciate affordable skin care products that contain natural ingredients.


Thank you Connie for sharing NIU BODY’s story, your recommendations and advice on being a Beauty Boss Babe.  NIU BODY is located in Toronto, You can purchase their products here and from their stocklists.



Written By: Margaret Saliba 



All Personal Series: (Pod)casting Our Skills Muscles

YWiB Toronto has partnered with Roxana, Founder of bespoke training and coaching agency All Personal, for a blog series written by her. She helps individuals (re)discover and work-out their personal skills ‘muscles’, so they increase their self-awareness and improve their confidence, impact, relationships and, ultimately, quality of life. This series will provide insight into how you can do the same, and ideally walk away with tips, tricks, and advice that you can apply to your own life and career. 

She trains and coaches executives, business owners and professionals on practical techniques that they can easily use and apply in any area of their life, with a strong focus on communication (verbal and non-verbal), change, feedback, presenting & speaking, team & self management, teamwork, leadership.

Roxana is a TEDx speaker, a certified coach and trainer, and a Learning & Development professional. She holds a diploma in Learning & Development and a certificate in Human Resources from the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development in the UK, as well as a Master of Arts in Knowledge, Information and Project Management from the University of Bucharest, Romania.

Roxana Radulescu

Did you ever think about our skills as being muscles? Mind muscles, actually, because, ultimately, it’s all wired there, inside our brain.

I had this epiphany after I ran my first half-marathon some years ago. I’d been constantly running on the treadmill my 5 km twice a week, and it was this regular exercise that had my muscles trained and ready to run 21 km when I decided I’d give it a go. And it worked – as in, I survived! And that’s when I thought that the things we ‘train’ for everyday, the things we have a habit of doing, are the ones that make us prepared to face the unexpected in our life. You can hear all about it in my TEDx talk on How our skills muscles change the way we deal with Change.

Back to this article, as adults, we train our body muscles when we want to be fit and feel healthy. We also tend to train our skills muscles when the company we work for sends us on a training session or when we need that training for progress in our career. And so the entire perception on learning is that it is an event we go TO, spend some time there and then, it’s over, we don’t have to do anything about it anymore.

Now, the whole point of learning is seeing it as a process, not as an event. Let me explain: during a training session we learn ‘about’ new things, or theories, or concepts. We do not learn them (as in master them), we learn about them (as in find out about them). Training is where we become aware that certain concepts exist which we can use.

But it is the aftermath that makes the difference between full learning and learning ‘about’. It’s the practice. Being aware that you can give feedback in a way that doesn’t harm the other, for instance, is not the same with actually giving it properly. So what I do after a feedback training session is, often, more important than the training itself. It’s ‘how’ and ‘how often’ I use that information that matters. And it’s that kind of exercise that will take me to master that particular topic.

Think about cooking – when we learn how to cook something for the first time we usually go for the recipe. We read it (or watch it), that’s the formal training side of things. That alone doesn’t mean we now know ‘how’ to cook that recipe. So we get down to work, follow the instructions and start cooking. Now, depending on how many skills we have and which we can use in the process, the result will be a better or, let’s say, an average one. And then, we cook it again and again until we’re happy with the result. That’s the practice, which leads to full learning. Once we’ve cooked that recipe enough times, we start to contribute our own ideas to it. We start playing and improvising, using less of one spice and more of the other. That’s mastery. That’s also the point where it starts to be difficult to return to the beginner’s mind we had at the beginning of the process and unlearn the whole thing, but that’s another discussion. Idea is: it took practice to get to the mastery bit.

Why, then, do we think that we are going to be master communicators once we’ve attended a communication training?

I think we need to look at our skills from a different perspective and have an honest discussion with ourselves.

  • What are my strong skills muscles?
  • What skills am I comfortable using and why?
  • How does that make me feel?
  • Can I still improve my strong skills muscles?
  • What are those skills muscles I’ve left asleep and haven’t used in a long time?
  • What could they do to help me?
  • How can I train them now so they serve me later?
  • And how can I do that regularly?

Well (apart from working with me, of course:)) the good news is half of the job is done by answering some of these questions and becoming aware of your own skills muscles. Actually seeing them, feeling that you use them and seeing the difference they make in your life. And then, constantly deciding to practice, to train them.

If I want to improve my listening skills, the first thing to do is be aware that this is the skill I want to improve. And then, I shut up more and speak less. I pay attention to what people are saying to me instead of thinking about what I’m going to say the second they’ve finished their sentence (oh, and maybe even sooner than that, why wait?!).

And then you may be surprised to see that the practice payed off. Because one day you have a talk with a client or team mate or even friend. And you stop thinking about your list of questions, stop ticking points off that list and start having a real conversation. One that lands you a happy client, team mate or friend. One real dialogue that ends with them saying: ‘yes, that’s exactly what I meant, thanks for listening!’. All because you’ve trained that skill muscle until you don’t even realize you’re using it anymore, while it does its job brilliantly.

So, is it worth training our skills muscles? My wild guess is, well, you’ve guessed… Point is, they’re very much attached to us and yes, they can make us look good, too:). So train them on and show them off!

Her podcast series, All Personal, turns the good old saying ‘nothing personal, just business’ upside down, and proves that, in fact, it’s all personal, nothing is just business. Because it’s all about those personal skills that we bring to the table every day, and which can make the difference between us feeling successful or maybe not so much. The All Personal podcast series features entrepreneurs and professionals who discovered their unique skillset, and who are on a continuous learning journey. We recommend starting with her very first podcast, which features our very own: Diviya Lewis of YWiB Toronto and Choose Gratitude.